Greencastle-Antrim School District eyes Foremost for administrative office

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
The Greencastle-Antrim School Board is considering the purchase of the former Foremost Industries Inc. property on Buchanan Trail West for administrative offices and to make more room in the elementary school.

Greencastle-Antrim School District is considering a move, with the administration vacating one wing of the elementary school and setting up shop at a purchased building.

The board of school directors heard from chief educational officer Bob Crider on Feb. 18. He shared the recommendation of administrators and the Facilities Committee to buy the Foremost Industries Inc. property at 2375 Buchanan Trail W. The commercial site is on the market and has the space for the district administrators and department heads.

“It would work,” Crider said. “We need 17 offices and there are 18 in the building.”

There was also adequate parking for normal work days.

The current administrative section would be remodeled into three classrooms and three workspaces. A fourth classroom could be crafted from the rear of the library.

The need

Board members Jim Winslow, Tracy Baer, Linda Farley, Mike Still, Lura Hanks, Paul Politis, Eric Holtzman, Shannon Yates and Brian Hissong compared two options for increased classroom space in 2016-2017.

This year, though all buildings are at capacity, Crider said the issue was most pressing at the elementary school. Enrollment was at 108 percent. And it was going to increase in the next couple years.

“Kindergarten is looking rather high next year,” he said.

Crider suggested that with three extra classrooms, one each for third-, fourth- and fifth-grades, the rooms would still be full so it was “not ideal, not ideal”, but it was doable. A fourth would be helpful.

The cost for obtaining Foremost was $625,000, and school renovations stood at $500,000. If the board chose to renovate the library at the middle school for three more classrooms, that would add $300,000 to the short term plan to get more space on campus.

The other choice was to lease four modular buildings. That would run $600,000 over 10 years, plus set up costs of $120,000.

Private citizen and real estate manager Charles Eckstine and Hissong provided 'what if?' information.

If the district constructed its own building, prevailing wage would add 30 percent to the labor cost. Leasing expenses, usually $10 to $15 per square foot, would nearly match the purchase price, said Eckstine.

He advised buying the property, but having the current owner do the interior renovations to avoid the state-mandated prevailing wage.

“If you ever sell it, you should at least be able to get out what you put into it, depending on the economy of course,” he concluded.

The district is waiting on market value appraisals.

Crider repeated what business manager Jolinda Wilson had told him, “This immediate purchase fixes an immediate problem, to meet your goals with limited risk.”

Superintendent Greg Hoover, who was absent from the worksession, noted Friday that the project would not entail an increase in real estate mills. It would be paid for through debt service, but staggered so that as one loan is paid off, another supplants it, and the operating budget is not affected.

The item will be on the March 3 agenda.